An Awesome New Star Wars Heroine and Other Notes from the Week

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We’re pleased to bring you “While You Were Out”—the Verily editors’ quick takes on the happenings of this week.

The Force Is with These Females

The first installment of a new trilogy, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, premieres this week. (Finally!) Although little has been revealed about the plot, we know that old series favorites including Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, and Mark Hamill will star alongside fresh faces Daisy Ridley and John Boyega.

While Fisher (Princess Leia) called the Star Wars films “basically boys’ fantasies,” referring to her infamous bikini scene, this series promises a greater touch of girl power. Director J. J. Abrams said, “I’m just talking about [how] young girls and women seeing themselves in the story is something that we’re proud of and excited about. There are good guys and bad guys that are female. There are humans and nonhumans who are female.” That shouldn’t include a scantily dressed heroine this time around. “Well, you should fight for your outfit. Don’t be a slave like I was,” Fisher told Ridley. “All right, I’ll fight,” Ridley promised.

Despite the bikini and male-dominated casts, Star Wars has a legacy of powerful female heroines who have inspired girls (including myself) since the 1970s. Leia, who holds the title of General in this film, has long been hailed as a feminist heroine. She’s fearless, assertive, affectionate, and defiant. Likewise, Padmé Amidala (Natalie Portman), the heroine of the prequels, is smart, decisive, diplomatic, kind, and strong. She’s a queen at age 14 and later becomes a respected senator. These two ladies hold their own against imminent heroes and ominous villains.

I’m excited to see how Rey’s (Ridley) own strengths will come into play as the Star Wars saga continues. Here’s to Rey—and to a series that features some of the most confident, tactful, and intelligent heroines in the galaxy. —Marie Claire Lagroue

Cosby Sues Some of His Accusers

This week it was announced that Bill Cosby is countersuing seven women who have brought a class action suit against him in Massachusetts. “This was expected,” said attorney Joseph Cammarata, who represents the seven women. “It’s a page out of a defense lawyer’s playbook.” Lisa Bloom, an attorney who represents a different Cosby accuser, also told USA Today, “At least this ensures that the accusers will get the day in court they have been seeking.” Finally, Gloria Allred, another attorney handling such lawsuits against Cosby, added, “Although I do not represent the women in that case, I do believe that in general such a tactic will not deter courageous women from fighting the battle against him.” —Mary Rose Somarriba

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler Dish in Glamour

Of all best-friend duos in television, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are the first that come to mind for the modern woman. The pair was recently interviewed by Glamour for the upcoming January issue to promote their new movie, Sisters, which opens in theaters today. One aspect of Fey and Poehler’s relationship is that they have been incredibly supportive of each other’s accomplishments. At one point in the interview, Poehler said she prefered talking about Fey’s success rather than her own. As Verily’s Sophie Caldecott noted this week, “They are perfectly happy to admit that they are flawed and that life is full of contradictions. In a time when we often feel like we have to be strong and perfect to prove that women are worthy of being equals and leaders in society, this is a refreshing message. Fey and Poehler don’t have to be perfect role models who get the balance right all the time—and neither do I.” Amen, sister! —Diana Stancy

Lady Gaga Takes a Tip from Adele

Without a doubt, Lady Gaga certainly earned a reputation for herself several years ago as she entered the spotlight. From wearing a dress constructed from meat to her shocking music videos, Lady Gaga was introduced to the world as quite a character. Even so, Lady Gaga’s style has evolved. And this year, she was awarded Billboard’s “Woman of the Year” for 2015, not based on her crazy antics but based on her talent. As Verily’s culture editor Mary Rose Somarriba writes this week, “In the past two years, the performances I’ve caught of Gaga have impressed me in a way I could have never imagined.” I am glad Lady Gaga has moved past shocking audience members because it allows us to focus on what really matters—the gift of music. For some of Verily’s favorite highlights of Lady Gaga, check out the full story here. —DS

P.S. Adele Will Visit These Places

Now that Adele has won your heart all over again, how can you get the chance to see her live? The power-voiced woman who snuck up on 2015 has just announced her tour dates. The tickets went on sale Thursday; sadly for many fans, many shows sold out in a matter of hours. Ah, well, for those of us who can’t see her in person, at least we have the NBC special that aired this week. —MRS

Serena Williams, Sportsperson of the Year

Sports Illustrated has recognized tennis star Serena Williams as its 2015 Sportsperson of the Year. As Verily’s Baleigh Scott notes, this is good news for more than just tennis: It’s also a celebration of the power of the human body, particularly in a country that often values women’s bodies simply for how they look. For Scott, taking on a half marathon, a triathlon, and then several marathons was a testament to her body’s athletic abilities and was deserving of appreciation. She writes, “No, you don’t have to push your body to its absolute limits of physical ability to appreciate it. And, frankly, there are a great many things more important than our bodies and what they can do. But I think it is worth recognizing our bodies for what they are, and what they are is more than a pretty thing to look at. From showing affection to bearing children to, yes, playing tennis, our bodies are capable of so much more than being easy on the eyes.” That, in and of itself, is something to appreciate. —DS

Carly Fiorina Called ‘Every B Word in the Book’

This week presidential candidate Carly Fiorina referenced receiving sexist comments in the latest Republican presidential debate. The former Hewlett-Packard CEO said she’s been called “every ‘word’ in the book.” People on Twitter responded with variations of other possible ‘words,’ mostly humorous, some serious, still others praiseworthy (I’ll have me some “beautiful” and “bold”!). Fiorina also quoted Margaret Thatcher at one point, saying, “Margaret Thatcher once said, ‘If you want something talked about, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman.’” The Internet explodes again. Gotta say, and I’ve said it before: All politics aside, I love hearing a woman on the presidential stage. —MRS

First Glimpse of Natalie Portman as Jacqueline Kennedy

It may just be one photo, but the recently released first look at Natalie Portman in her role as the iconic first lady in her upcoming film Jackie has got us excited. At the very least, the film looks like it holds a lot of visual promise, with great casting and excellent art direction. Set after the assassination of Jackie’s husband, President John F. Kennedy, the crew is currently filming in Paris. Get ready for some awesome sixties-inspired trends. —Sophie Caldecott

‘This Christmas, Give the Most Touching Gift‘—Ew

You know those sappy Christmas adverts featuring a sad elderly person and twinkly Christmas music that are everywhere at this time of year? They never fail to simultaneously bring a tear to my eye and leave me feeling like I’ve been shamelessly emotionally manipulated by a clever marketing department. So, when I saw this PornHub Christmas ad, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. The ad depicts a touching family scene with everyone opening presents by a Christmas tree, before the young man of the family notices that his grandfather is looking lonely/bored/sad. He hands him an envelope and they embrace, a single tear on the old man’s cheek as he thanks his grandson for giving him the one present he truly wanted—a voucher for PornHub’s premium service. Um, no. The “gift of porn” will ultimately make that sad old man sadder, given how porn affects relationships and causes devastating damage to the lives of the people taken advantage of by the industry. —SC

Victoria‘s Secret Not So Much of a Secret

For some, the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show is a routine, annual event. Many even arrange viewing parties with their friends. But that’s not the case for everyone. Last Friday, Verily’s Baleigh Scott elaborated on why she has avoided watching the fashion show each year, despite the fact that many of her friends watch it. It’s not that she doesn’t approve of the lingerie or doesn’t embrace acceptance of the human body. Rather, it’s related to the premise of the fashion show’s product—basically to “arouse and seduce.” But as Scott acknowledges, that’s not for everyone: “While that’s a fine thing, being seduced by a Victoria’s Secret model is not how my fiancé and I would like to spend an evening. . . . And in my mind, that is not prudish or judgmental, it’s just practical,” Scott writes. Now that’s a point I think many women can relate to. —DS